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Empowering Women and Youth

A farmer in Ethiopia receives a certificate after completing a course on wheat rust management

ICARDA empowers women and youth so that these often marginalized groups can gain new knowledge, benefit from innovations, and secure access to new market opportunities. Through training and technical assistance, women and youth are given the tools and expertise to lead fulfilling and productive lives, thereby contributing to the wellbeing of their households and communities.

Supporting women farmers

Women play a crucial and growing role in food production. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) they now represent 43 % of the world’s agricultural labor force – a share that has increased significantly since 1980.

In many places women run farms in addition to managing the family year-round, while their husbands seek gainful employment working elsewhere. Women are therefore increasingly becoming de facto household heads in many dryland agricultural production systems. They make significant contributions to agricultural production, processing, marketing, and household food security and nutrition.

However, prevailing “gender gaps” mean that women’s access to resources, inputs, and services is poor and their productivity potential falls short – entailing huge costs to their households and limiting development gains. Many women also endure a triple work burden - reproductive, productive, and collective – which shapes their incentives and time available to adopt agricultural innovations. 

ICARDA’s gender strategy

ICARDA includes gender in all aspects of its research programs to ensure that any knowledge generated has a positive and equitable impact on both women and men, and will not inadvertently disadvantage women or other vulnerable groups. A gender focus also increases overall impact – leaving it out means that a significant part of the population is excluded.

Targeted gender outcomes include:

  • Encouraging rural women’s groups to adopt entrepreneurial activities for high-value commodities
  • Developing enabling policies for gender equity in agricultural technology and development
  • Increasing women’s access to new agriculture innovations, information, finance, and other inputs and services to increase production and productivity
  • Increasing women’s access to markets and marketing information
  • Improving women’s access to extension, veterinary and other agricultural service delivery systems, policies, and programs.

Addressing the needs of youth

Youth, like women, constitute a large, disenfranchised group facing high levels of unemployment. They too have tremendous capacity to innovate and engage meaningfully, and have great opportunities as agricultural service providers. ICARDA is exploring innovative ways of attracting youth into agriculture.

Selected impacts:

Connecting rural women to global markets

An ICARDA initiative targeting rural women in Central Asia used a market-driven approach to establish a self-sustaining value chain – from improved breeding and husbandry practices to the production of world-class yarns and appealing products linked to export markets. Women participating in the initiative were empowered, and they received higher incomes and improved economic security.

Goat production leads to lasting gains for women in Afghanistan

An ICARDA project that promoted the distribution and management of goats has generated enormous benefits for some of the country’s poorest and most vulnerable women, and continues to multiply impacts through a ”pass on the gift” initiative. The project provided skills, knowledge, and inputs to create profitable dairy goat production.